Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Books’

The big move was done in little pieces. We ferried small things over in our car piece by piece, the ubiquitous Pod was delivered and emptied by a team of BellHops, then finally Music City Movers emptied our townhouse. Ten days later I threw a Seder for family and friends – 17 altogether. To say I’m exhausted would be missing the point; I’m feeling like I got hit by a truck and I don’t have the flu….

Remember that book we all read years ago, required reading in every high school English class, “The Things They Carried.”

Twenty years ago, writer Tim O’Brien released a book of stories about young men and war, his war, Vietnam. Among many other things, he listed the weight of each soldier’s clothes, canteens and can openers. From the book: Every third or fourth man carried a claymore antipersonnel mine, 3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried fragmentation grenades, 14 ounces each. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade, 24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorous grenades. They carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125128156

I’ve been reevaluating all the things I’ve carried around with me from my glory days as a new wife and mother in Massachusetts, to moving back to NJ when the Rocker was just 2 and unpacking was almost impossible, to building our small house overlooking the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Then finally the fantastical move to Nashville, leaving Bob to sell most of our furniture to the new owners of our house, while I stayed here on Nana duty.

Unlike Great Grandma Ada, who cocooned in her home for fifty years collecting the things her two sisters left behind, I’ve had ample opportunity to prune and shed the things that were weighing me down.

I still carry: some of the school papers from my children; the Bride’s baby dresses; a big, antique French cupboard; the heron and guinea hen prints, the kilt I was wearing when I first met Bob; my 1960s avocado green mixer; my 60s blue Dutch oven, the one I found in a store in Cambridge, MA, the same store I’d see Julia Child shopping in from time to time, it’s a heavy workhouse of a pot that found its way back into my heart during Seder prep; the oil painting the Bride did of us on Windsor Pond; the Rocker’s self-portrait from high school. All the old photographs.

And my beautiful desk, the one I’m writing on just now. I’ve missed it for 2 years.

I’ve carried all I can bear, but still the Bride insisted on “Marie Kondoizing” me. She dumped piles of clothes on my bed and asked me, one by one, if they sparked joy?! “Mom, you have two similar black Eileen Fisher dresses, which ONE do you want?”

I was resistant at first, but then I saw how my style, me weight, my essence had changed over the years. No woman wants to be stuck in the same hair style their whole life, and I could finally see that “Pittsfield-me” was too Laura Ashley, “Rumson-me” was too Lilly Pulitzer, and “Nashville-me” is something entirely different. I thanked my dated clothes for their faithful service and bid them farewell.

Bob has always traveled light, and so he was happy to see the Big Purge, but to my surprise he kept a few sentimental things of his own.

We are ready to tackle the garden now, to plant and transplant, to install the fairy house. I hope y’all had a wonderful Passover and Easter weekend and you’re looking ahead to blue skies and warmer days. Ms Bean has her favorite sunny spot on the porch, and I just might join her!

IMG_5342

 

 

Read Full Post »

Let’s face it, you can never have enough storage. When we moved to Nashville, we were forced to rent a Pod, the first time we’ve ever had to pay for storage. But when you downsize to a two bedroom townhouse, while anticipating another move to a second home, you need a place to keep your antique French cupboard for example… because we all know our kids don’t want our big old brown furniture.

Although it seems they do want Great Great Grandma Ety’s fine china, and Great Grandma Ada’s Steinway grand piano!

Bob and I are starting to house hunt again, and we’re also about to list the old homestead in NJ. So while his brother Jeff is trying to find places for 50 years of a life well spent traveling and accumulating stuff, I’m looking for a modicum of closet space! We toured a historic home right up the block yesterday with soaring ceilings and absolutely no storage. Although it did have a garden shed in the backyard.

Usually Bob and I are on the same page, but this is a sore point between us. He is absolutely not interested in collecting stuff – he is in fact, the opposite of his Mother. While she stores her sisters’ bric-a-brac for years, Bob will throw out anything that isn’t tied down. “Do you need this?” is a common refrain. He continually reminds me that he is not into things, just experiences. Give him Predator tickets, not another tchotchke!

Not me. As you may already know, I covet shoes. Boots of all varieties too. I know I’ll never have my very own custom shoe side of the closet again… but a girl can dream right? And I LOVE books, real hold in your hands books. So a built-in bookcase would not be unreasonable! Books will always call my name whenever I walk into a living room. Naturally I was drawn to this article in the Real Estate section of the NYTimes, “Beyond the Built-in Bookcase:”

“One way to come up with ideas for creative built-ins is to look around your home for wasted space. Taking advantage of any oddly shaped leftover space is a great way to integrate storage while reducing the need for free-standing pieces…”

First you are supposed to walk around your home and make a LIST of everything you want to store, then determine if you are a messy kind of person who deals with clutter (I would change that description to “creative types”) OR a show-offy type of person who wants to display collections…

Artistic people need to think of drawers and closets, while collectors need to think of glass cabinets and open shelving. OK that makes sense. And now to tackle the wasted space part. Nearly every house I look at, the owner will say something like, “I just never knew what to do with this space.” Either it’s a corner with a huge air vent, or a strange architectural detail, like a point instead of a bay window. Designers like to hide storage in plain sight with invisible latches; “They send a signal of stealth wealth and attention to detail,” she said. “Built-ins have gone from being a statement to being a secret.”

Like a Murphy bed! Who doesn’t love a Murphy bed?

It’s another rainy day in Nashville. I think I’ll start my list of stuff to store with all my stringing and beading paraphernalia. It’s organized among clear plastic bins and can fit into a small painted chest, but right now it’s spread across the dining table because I’m feeling creative. Pantone’s color for Spring is Living Coral!

I’ve told Bob when we finally empty the Pod it will be like Christmas morning for me. He figures if we’ve lived without “it” for 2 years, we don’t really need it, whatever “it” is. I love my 1960s Dutch oven that I bought in a store in Cambridge Mass, after seeing Julia Child. Is this minimalism a Y chromosome thing?

To his credit, Bob does make a mean ravioli, and we sometimes eat at the table!

IMG_1682

 

Read Full Post »

How does a poet, a once upon a time science writer, become a novelist? Barbara Kingsolver, a self-described introvert, told her audience it’s a matter of luck and timing. “I am not trying to please anybody,” she said. “I write because I love to write, I write because I have to…”

Our local Parnassus Bookstore organized today’s event at the rooftop bar of a very trendy restaurant in the Gulch. Ann Patchett and Kingsolver in a conversation about the writing life – I asked a friend to go and we Lyfted down. Over a chicken sandwich and salad we learned about her farm back in VA, close to our “not-so-big-house” on the mountain. It was the start of Kingsolver’s book tour; “Unsheltered,” takes place in Vineland, NJ, a landscape that had once been considered a utopia, in another century, and she weaves us back and forth between the 1800s and today seamlessly:

“Here comes the first major novel to tackle the Trump era straight on and place it in the larger chronicle of existential threats. Donald Trump’s name doesn’t appear in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Unsheltered,” but the president prowls all through these pages. He’s “the Bullhorn,” “the tyrant who promises to restore the old order,” the “billionaire running for president who’s never lifted a finger,” the candidate who brags that “he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and people would still vote for him.” He’s the animal spirit of a political movement that’s draining the middle class, breaking the joists of civil society and pushing the planet toward ecological calamity.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/in-barbara-kingsolvers-unsheltered-trump-is-just-the-latest-threat-to-earths-survival/2018/10/16/6aebe630-d140-11e8-b2d2-f397227b43f0_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d2ff8cf353e4

Her next book will be something new, “Something that scares me to death,” a series of poems. For Kingsolver, poetry is “…the literary novelist’s art.” She explained that writing fiction is different in one sense, once she had the plot constructed in her mind, the rest is “Language.” SO poetry makes the process similar. The heart of her work is in the words, the language she uses to change a bunch of sentences (the first draft) “…from Toyotas to Ferraris!

Kingsolver speaks like an artist, she gives us “brushstrokes” of details to bring her characters and the landscape to life. In “Unsheltered” she examines what it means to hang on to the old ways of doing things, vs moving forward, embracing change. Why do some of us resist change, while others go with the flow of progress, adapt to our shifting environment?

In this new post-2016 world, where words are being weaponized to suit an autocratic, narcissistic commander-in-chief, where truth is taking a back seat in political discourse, and journalists are sent pipe bombs and being slaughtered in embassies, Kingsolver ended the afternoon imploring us to VOTE. It’s as if our lives depend on it.   IMG_4067

 

Read Full Post »

Buon Giorno! It seems that most of our little courtyard of Nashville neighbors are traveling to Italy this season. Rocky’s parents, a cute young couple, just returned from hiking around the Amalfi Coast, and Kudra’s mama is currently in Cinque Terre! FYI Rocky is about three pounds of Yorkie-mix and Kudra is a sweet grey tabby cat. Lucky for me, I’m the kitty sitter.

I love coming over to my neighbor’s house in the morning. The sun streams onto the screened porch and cute Kudra climbs up on my lap for a pet, or maybe a love bite depending on her mood. You can’t hear the street noise, only birds and squirrels, so it’s almost like a meditation; no Bob asking me where I’m going (to the bathroom honey), no TV background Michael Avenatti noise or pundits wondering how Supreme Court Justice “I Like Beer” Brett Kavanaugh managed to be sworn onto the highest court in the land.

I’m done listening to prevaricators, and all the useless prognosticating…this weekend just plumb wore me out.

The weekend started out Thursday on a high note however, I accompanied Bob and the Bride to a Planned Parenthood shindig with our delightful 91 year old neighbor, Burdelle. The keynote speaker was Irin Carmon, the co-author of the 2015 book, “The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” I couldn’t wait to hear how this legit, liberal icon on the SCOTUS got her start.  https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/books/review-notorious-rbg-the-life-and-times-of-ruth-bader-ginsburg.html

Ms Carmon, once a writer and editor for Jezebel, is an “…MSNBC journalist known for her smarts and feminist bona fides.” She was quite charming in person, strode right up to me and introduced herself. I immediately wanted to know more about her, this Harvard alum, this confident, competent young woman who wore bright red lipstick. Before I knew it, I was in a tight circle of women looking at her wedding pictures – Ruth was her officiant!

“She came all the way to Brooklyn,” Carmon said. Her talk about Justice Ginsburg did not disappoint.

Did you know there’s a children’s book about RBG? The Love Bug has a copy –  “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark.” So just to be fair, I had to stop by Parnassus and pick up a signed copy of the Property Brothers new children’s book, “Builder Brothers: Big Plans” for the L’il Pumpkin. Not that girls don’t build things too…insert strong arm emojis now. Wasn’t sure if I should include a picture of the Bug in her pussycat headband planting an oak tree, or this one?

We #StandWithPlannedParenthood

IMG_3868

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

I was watering my herb pots yesterday when I heard a distinct whirring sound, even Ms Bean was looking up. I knew the sheep were still in Tuscany, and so is Bob! Because as I write now, he is cleaning a vintage pasta machine our neighbor gave us; did you know that you cannot allow water to get into the steel gears? Google told us!

“Now I’m gonna make some spaghetti,” Bob said.

It’s difficult to write in the middle of an open concept townhouse. But back to the strange sound in the sky, I looked up to see a drone whizzing by and even though I was dressed in yoga/gym appropriate clothes, I felt distinctly vulnerable. Taking cover under the porch’s roof, I watched as the drone hovered very close to my herb garden – the parsley, pineapple sage, rosemary and thyme seemed to cower in technological despair.

I know that some realtors use drones for their sales, and even Google Earth may deploy one, or Amazon might start delivering small packages. Drones can bring death in other countries, or a new iPhone to our doorstep. In my jet-lagged state, I felt invaded. Can privacy honestly be a relic of past generations? Will that smart phone we palm become an imbedded portal to our brain, teasing us with targeted advertising all the time?

On the nine hour flight home I watched two movies and finished one book on my iPad. Maybe I was feeling twitchy because the book was Dan Brown’s latest, “Origin.” The acclaimed author of “The DaVinci Code” brings back to life the Harvard symbologist, Tom Hanks, whoops, Robert Langdon. Set in Spain, of course there’s a beautiful woman engaged to a prince but the most unlikely new hero is an AI named “Winston.”

What I find interesting in today’s context was the Loyalty (with a capital L) Winston the AI displayed to the scientist who built him – I had to ask myself, can a machine demonstrate loyalty, or can people write a code for that? The book revolves around the age-old argument of science/evolution vs religion/creationism and taught me more about Gaudi and in particular, his unfinished cathedral The Sagrada Familia, than I ever needed to know.

“Where are we from and where are we going?” is the central theme of the book, and as I watch the debate over Kavanaugh and the idiotic tour of North Carolina by Mr T asking about Lake Norman because he has a golf course there, I’m wondering the same thing. This president considers loyalty to HIM as sacrosanct, he doesn’t give a fig about where our country is headed or how our allies are increasingly isolated. And his followers seem to be OK with his contradictions, calling themselves good Christians while $260M is moved away from cancer and HIV/AIDS research to pay for the care and custody of 13,000 immigrant children – with 1,500 children HHS could still not locate!   https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/20/politics/hhs-shifting-money-cancer-aids-immigrant-children/index.html

When I asked Italians what they thought of Mr T, they said they liked him UNTIL he started separating children from their families.

Hate and Fear are powerful motivators, but I have to believe that Love is the best by far. So my New Year’s resolution is to spread some love around, like a drone flying overhead, surreptitiously. I will turn the other cheek, so to speak. We will make ravioli, and work to register voters and pray for a miracle in November.

IMG_3396

Read Full Post »

What a weekend! I got my hair cut just a bit shorter a la Helen Mirren, and one of the Bride’s friends from medical school flew into town with her little boy. She is an Ob-Gyn physician who was recently certified to perform Sex Reassignment Surgery (“SRS -also known as gender reassignment surgery, gender confirmation surgery, genital reconstruction surgery, gender-affirming surgery, or sex realignment surgery).” I am so proud of her!

I remembered this feisty red-headed friend had always been ahead of her time – she started a group in school to push for LGBT rights, she once gave me a button to wear, “Straight but NOT narrow.” She writes the loveliest thank you notes. She and the Bride had (and still have) yoga in common, and if you’ve been following this blog for a long time, you might recall when I helped her pick out a rescue dog!

Her adorable son played hard with my two Grands and it was sad to see them go home yesterday.

But sadder still was our Saturday sojourn to Parnassus Bookstore to hear David Frum talk about his new book, “Trumpocracy.” Frum was actually quite enlightening, it was the topic that reeks of despair. He called himself a Conservative, and deplored the dire direction Mr T has taken our democracy; we are a nation more divided than any time in the history of keeping statistics for such things. The one take-away for me was when he started to talk about “political language.”

If you’ve seen the video of Marco Rubio dancing around the question about his willingness to take NRA money, you know what Frum was talking about. Politicians never, well almost never, give you a straight answer. They equivocate, they zig-zag, they dodge, they prevaricate. We might also say that lying has become a new normal, thank you Ms Conway. Look at all those indictments, thank you very much Mr Mueller. But what Mr T has done is cornered the market on plain talk. He gave Yes, and No answers, he “appears” to be truthful to his supporters. He got tons of free press, always eager for the spotlight. His appeal was his political ennui.

Perhaps the very darkness of the Trump experience can summon the nation to its senses and jolt Americans to a new politics of commonality, a new politics in which the Trump experience is remembered as the end of something bad, and not the beginning of something worse. Trump appealed to what was mean and cruel and shameful. The power of that appeal should never be underestimated. But once its power fades, even those who have succumbed will feel regret.  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/frum-trumpocracy/550685/

Frum makes the case that we need Conservatives to survive, and I would have to agree, we do need their yin to our yang, pulling us closer to a middle way. Or maybe we need a third party? Finding consensus is our only hope, since patriotism is a bi-partisan emotion that is very different from the fear and anger spewed by a small percentage of white-nationalist-identity politicians.

Maybe the GOP would benefit from a little early morning healing, meditative yoga? Namaste.

IMG_2331

 

Read Full Post »

Last night I attended a course on “Writing and Publishing for Children and Teens.” It was jam-packed with good advice and important resources, but the most interesting thing to me was the “other” facilitator – an illustrator. Her name is Mary Reaves Uhles and I happened to pick up one of her picture books while waiting for class to begin – I absolutely loved it! Lots of shenanigans and different skin colors at a Grandmother’s holiday celebration:

“The Little Kids’ Table” by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles http://sleepingbearpress.com/shop/show/11704

At first I wondered if I should have been named Mary with multiple surnames, like all the nuns who taught me how to perfectly diagram a sentence, and probably set the stage for my love of reading and writing. Before popping into my class, I delivered two children’s books in Spanish to the Grands; one on Frida Kahlo and the other on Julio Cortázar! After all, they will be learning Spanish in school and why shouldn’t they think of art as a career choice? The Bride smiled at my obvious motive while she cooked up some delicious beans and rice.

One of the most important things I learned from Uhles is that when a manuscript is accepted by a publishing house, the writer has basically zero influence on the illustrator. For some reason I’d thought I would have to provide the artist along with my book, that writer and illustrator came as a duo, a married couple ’till death intervened. I might be able to suggest someone for the job, but nope, the editor gets to pick the person she/he likes. Uhles mentioned a friend who wrote a book about a family, only to find out it was finally published as a PIG family, which was not her intention, but hey…

I also learned I don’t have to rhyme, although I love reading aloud in rhyme to children. It’s like a melody that’s enhanced by harmony. But Dr Seuss seems to have cornered the market on couplets, still I’ll leave a bit of my idea for a another book on Buddha Bear. Y’all know Buddha was our wonderful part-Samoyed rescue who looked like a polar bear. One hundred pounds of pure love. https://mountainmornings.net/2011/11/03/to-a-good-dog/

Buddha Skates Across the Pond

Snowflakes settled on his nose

As Buddha stepped outside to find

A fox left tracks in the tall sea grass

And chocolate milk was on his mind

The school was closed, so back inside

He jumped to pull a crazy quilt

From Lena’s bed, “Up, up, up, sleepyhead!”

He begged with paws of icy silt

I envision a series, Buddha in the Morning, Buddha at the Beach, Buddha Gives Chase, Buddha on a Plane, etc. Which reminds me, when we arrived in Mexico, a police officer was strolling through the airport with a proud German Shepherd dog. who started sniffing all around my bag. Oh Oh, was I carrying some contraband into the country? We always thought Buddha was a drop-out from a K-9 program. It turned out this drug-sniffing dog had smelled my half of a ham sandwich from Starbucks. Needless to say, it was confiscated.

Our current combined pups:  Guinness, Ms Bean and Maple the newest IMG_2040

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: